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Oct 13, 2009

In memoriam: Richard Davey Benham

Our colleague Chris Irwin has written the following text to honor the late Richard Benham, a man noted for his professional competence and wit and whose untimely passing reminds us to appreciate our lives and the people we share them with today, because tomorrow may not count.

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August 26, 2009 was a sad day for some in our profession, seeing the untimely demise of highly-respected and popular professional linguist Richard Benham in Australia at the age of 52.

Richard was well-known to many members of the Proz.com community for the extent of his knowledge, his integrity, wit and the unique character traits that emanated from his entries in forum postings and terminology questions.

As a member of the UK Chartered Institute of Linguists, he held their DipTrans award for translation from both and French and German into English.

Richard’s fields of speciality were primarily in technical, including IT (he had experience as a programmer), automotive, electrical engineering and marketing work of a technical nature.

His elder brother Chris wrote: “Richard was the 'great brain' of the family, and the only one to have mastered more than one language. He had massive, massive knowledge and some great personal qualities. He could remember some of the things that happened in my childhood that I'd forgotten. He was the family champion at card games.”

Richards’ mother Daphne added in a letter to a colleague: “From early childhood, Richard loved learning and won state-wide prizes for both French and mathematics twice. He had suffered a fall last year on wet Geneva cobblestones and broke his left shoulder, which was a personal and financial disaster, severely affecting his ability to be present at the University of Geneva at the time. He was happy to be back in Adelaide uni doing a maths course and co-writing a paper on Dirac Delta Logic with an old friend who was a professor of philosophy, as well as finding time to do a bit of translating. It was all blue sky, or so we thought. Richard had a recurrence of stomach problems and the day after he had had both an endoscopy and colonoscopy he started vomiting in the night, subsequently passing away.”

Comments on an ‘R.I.P.’ forum on the Proz.com site included these statements:
“I knew him only through this site and he was an inspiring and good person.”

“Oh damnit. This hits me pretty hard. We had emailed extensively a few years ago but were out of touch more recently. Am very sad to hear this and extend my sincere condolences to his family.”

“A much valued and respected colleague. I shall miss him.”

“He was someone I admired enormously, who was clearly a very talented person with excellent translation skills. I'm very saddened by the news of his death and I am sorry that I never had the opportunity to meet him in person.”

“I am shocked and saddened to hear of Richard's passing. Richard will be sadly missed by the many colleagues who got to know him over the years when he was an active member of the site. His outstanding skills as a translator, his sparkling wit and his frankness and honesty made him a colleague so many of us admired.”

“I had many great collegial discussions with Richard on KudoZ and respected him very much. I always valued his frank opinion and feel his contributions really helped.

Richard was truly a gentleman and a scholar. His passing is a huge loss to the translating community.”

Part of Richard’s integrity was indeed in his frankness, which led to his activities on the Proz.com site being restricted. Some comments about this were edited out of the above forum; a tasteless action which caused disgust among several members.

22 comments:

  1. Good for you, Kevin and Chris. I was appalled at the editing that went on in that thread and the general treatment of the topic, i.e. quickly bumping it from the front page. I'm also puzzled how my "damnit" made it past the mods.

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  2. Wonderful tribute Chris. It has to be noted that not a single word of condolence was offered by anyone from Proz officialdom. Apparently, the hatred of their perceived 'enemies' (ie those who want a site that focuses on professionalism and quality)even continues after the person passes away.

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  3. Here's a bit of mail from Richard which was forwarded to me in which at least one of the conflicts with ProZ is discussed. Welcome to The Twilight Zone:

    Subject: Re: Discussion entries will be limited to 1200 characters (KudoZ)
    Date: Sat, 21 Feb 2009 19:11:43 -0800 (PST)
    From: Richard D. Benham (admin@rbenham.com)
    To: xxxx@xxxx.xxx

    I was told I would no longer be allowed to post anything, and I didn't really give a rat's arse. But there is a difference between not being allowed to post and not being allowed to view the discussions. I have since looked at the thread via a proxy.

    This happened because I hid a KudoZ answer after the asker rejected it, despite giving the points to a substantially similar answer, giving my reason as "asker is a rude shit". The mod unhid the answer because "it might be helpful", and also published my reason. (I forget who it was.) Then she banned me from posting; so I can't rehide the answer. I suspect this is a breach of my copyright or something (after all, I posted it on the understanding that I could later hide it). And she can't sustain her claim that my use of the word "shit" is intrinsically offensive (to the asker /and/ her) if she published it for all and sundry. My official position is that I have never been warned that anyone will read my reasons for hiding an answer, whereas you are warned for example that an answerer will be notified if you change your grading or comments; so I am entitled to assume that the need to supply a reason is just intended as a psychological barrier to deter people from hiding answers on a whim.

    Cheers,

    Richard

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  4. Yes, I remember Richard Benham and appreciate his contributions very much. However, I knew that bright minds won´t stay at ProZ.com all too long. His restriction was no surprise for me at all, because ProZ.com doesn´t need brilliant, honest people. They need lambs and wolves in lamb woolies. Richard´s integrity lies in his honest opinions and that´s why he was restricted like many other people who had been in the translator community at that website and who are gone now, of course.

    I am so sorry to hear that he is gone from us.

    - Sylvia

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  5. I first became aware of Richard through his exposure of Harold Vadney as a fraud. I respected the directness and tenacity he showed in revealing the truth despite attempts at harassment both of him personally and his elderly parents. Too bad more people don't have a spine like that - Leute ohne Rückgrat haben wir schon zu viel.

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  6. For the record, I stand corrected in my statement above: "As a member of the UK Chartered Institute of Linguists, he held their DipTrans award for translation from both and French and German into English."

    Richard certainly did pass their DipTans examination (with distinction in French and AFAIK in German).

    However, he was not a member of that institution and had strong views about their being awarded a Royal Charter. The reason for this was that it failed to set objective standards for membership, and - together with a colleague - he made a comparison with several other chartered professional organisations, showing its inadequacies.

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  7. [quote]Part of Richard’s integrity was indeed in his frankness, which led to his activities on the Proz.com site being restricted. Some comments about this were edited out of the above forum; a tasteless action which caused disgust among several members. [/quote]

    Dear Kevin,

    It is understandable that Proz.com doesn´t want to be involved in any trouble brought in with their members, no matter who is right or wrong. Nor is it in ProZ´s interest to abide with professionalism. ProZ.com is a private business with the goal of getting in so many members as possible to make money per click and to make money with whatever means out of the gathered data of the members/users. Richard´s engagement in and insistance on the professionalism was against their policy. The restriction set upon his postings was perfectly understandable.

    The best way to stay at ProZ.com is to register as user/member and shut up as if translators had no opinions concerning their profession at all, as if translators accepted anything came upon them. A badge? Oh how nice! A scarlet letter P? Wow, I become a recognized professional translator! Ask to be a moderator? Hey, what an honor! Ask to participate in localizing the website? Thank you, God, what a great opportunity to profile oneself as a professional translator and have a free publicity as well!

    Any effort to enhance professionalism at ProZ.com is futile. That would make them too much trouble, "die Spreu vom Weizen zu trennen (to separate the wheat from the chaff)." Anyone who dares to try will be "fairly voted off the island" by the unpaid honorable moderators with the rules of "fairness."

    Richard was not the only one. Almost all the top translators I admired at that site are gone or just be silent. Many less fortunate translators need such a site as ProZ.com or TranslorsCafe to develop their client base.

    However, such websites are useful for me to recognize good translators, those who are with strong and honest opinions. I have been following those ones from there to somewhere else like to this blog of yours, Kevin. From those people I have been learning more than there where they promote hypocracy and exploitation in the name of "rules." From those ones, I learn learn how to develop client base in an honest way and I am fortunate enough to survive as a translator, who doesn´t fall into the pit of deception that company sets up. There are many of us in the cyberspace. Just follow the ones who become less and less vocal and all of a sudden disappear from that website and you find good translators for good business relations.

    - Sylvia

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  8. Well, Sylvia, you have to give Henry & Co. points for one thing at least: they exercised good judgment in banning Mr. Vadney from posting jobs there, an action in which I understand Richard played some part. Since posting the comment here, said Vadney has attempted to post a rather puerile gloat regarding Richard's passing as well as threatened me privately. It would appear that Richard was dealing with a very unbalanced individual there.

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  9. Absolutely. My impression is that Vadney's tasteless rant indeed lends further credence to the correctness of the information published by Richard.

    Chris

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  10. Believe me, Kevin, I give Henry & Co. some more points for something else, but never for their judgements in banning or restricting people from doing anything. They restricted Richard´s posting not because of a good judgement after all. Banning Vadney from posting jobs is "keine Kunst." Vadney could have lied about his qualifications, but he does business just the same way as ProZ.com does, based on a forged illusion. So long he pays decent rates for his job offers, there will be no people against his job offers; so long as people make fun at that website (no matter at whose expenses), they stay there and enjoy the illusion of being a professional translator community.

    "Since posting the comment here, said Vadney has attempted to post a rather puerile gloat regarding Richard's passing as well as threatened me privately." To tell you the truth, I´d rather have read how unbalanced Mr. Vadney is in his own words. However, it is you right to publish or conceal whatever he wrote as comment here or privately to you.

    As I said before, ProZ.com has been a place where I find some good translators, whom I can work together with in solving translation problems. For this, I give more points to Henry & Co., though most of those good ones are gone from the site. However, as I see it, the banning and the restricting of Mr. Vadney and Richard are of the same reason: What they did there endangered the interest/purpose of the website. So, their "contributions" were not welcome. For this, I wouldn´t give them any points at all, because I´d rather have seen how ugly it would become as the truth sometimes is to have a chance of learning how to avoid such nasty situations in my own life.

    Anyway, your blog reveals from time to time something about the functioning of the system at that website. I appreciate it very much. It´s a pity that we can never have a thorough view of the system, because it is a private owned company, either one accepts the imposed conditions or not. They are always people who can accept whatever happens to them and there are some others who don´t. I don´t mind that people find their own ways to suit the situations. Most important, everyone knows what suits her/him. Playing such a color game can be fun for some people, but it has nothing to do with professionalism. I know a lot of people who are doing just as well as I do, some even better, without "sich darauf einzulassen."

    A friend of my husband wrote, "Wenn man das Geschäftsmodell von Proz nimmt (Geschäft mit Klicks, Werbung usw.), dann ist es einleuchtend, dass Leute, die den "Betriebsfrieden" (intelligente Kritiker) stören, "auf die Abschussliste kommen". ProZ braucht zur Erzielung keine guten und kritischen Leute, sondern Kuscher, Schwanzeinzieher und Lemminge. Dann haben sie leichtes Spiel." Many of the ex mods know about this. So, people either find a way to draw their benefits out of the system or keep a distance from it. As I see it, people wouldn´t care, so long they are not directly hurt. But, when they get hurt, others wouldn´t understand them, either - out of the same reason, of course.

    Professional or not professional translators, the end clients know better. They know how to select, not necessarily from that pool of so-called professional translators. Good ones can sustain almost everything and survive almost everywhere. No need to help creating an illusion for the profession. Others might have other opinions and that´s why they create other similar websites. Well, everyone finds her/his own way that suits herself/himself. I am still waiting for soemthing to happen and shed some more light into such a system.

    Have a nice day!

    - Sylvia

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  11. @Sylvia: Pardon me for not posting Vadney's celebration of Richard's passing. I find such things tasteless in the extreme, and I am not interested in contributing to defamation of the sort that Mr. Vadney practices (or any other for that matter - I expect factual statements to be backed up by facts). If his words interest you, they are available almost verbatim in the hate blog he operates. It can be found with a simple keyword search using Google; to link it here would give me an unclean feeling.

    As for the threats directed against me personally (another was received this morning), I may well comment on these further or post them, but not in this thread. That is my own issue and not one which need concern a colleague who is beyond the reach of such foolishness. After receiving the initial threats I looked further into the whole conflict between Richard and this disturbed individual, and my conclusion is that Mr. Benham was really far too kind.

    An individual who takes a clear position and defends it with wit, logic and facts will inevitably draw fire from those who prefer to live by a more compromised code. No individual is without flaws, and even with the best of intentions and research, good people make mistakes every day, but they acknowledge these, correct them and move on. And when demands are made to give in to a lie or even something which goes against one's conscience, I think that the words of Martin Luther are quite appropriate: "Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders." Honestly practiced, those are words to live and die by.

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  12. No problem, Kevin. I don´t think I would be interested in hatred.

    Martin Luther was a lucky guy. After being announced "vogelfrei," he was to die anytime anywhere. There was a mundane power who helped and protected him. Otherwise, he might remain unchanged, but a dead non-professional priest. ;)

    - Sylvia

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  13. @Sylvia - there are plenty of historical examples to support your suggestion, but I think the effectiveness of such protection can only be taken for granted in hindsight. While life is unfolding, I think good nerves or at least courage probably play a role.

    I remember a comment from a chemistry teacher of mine in high school who was in Chicago back when MLK led protests there. I don't remember if he was in a barbershop or where he was, but the protesters knelt in front of the building and began to pray. He noticed that Rev. King was shaking like a leaf. Now in Chicago, that could be the weather, but given the situation, it's understandable if other things played a role. His conclusion was that MLK was a coward and a hypocrite. I understand that differently: it may be a cliché to say that courage is action performed despite fear, but what else could it be?

    However, the troglodyte who made it his life's mission to vilify RB in his bizarre ravings couldn't inspire fear in a field mouse, so in that regard I cannot ascribe greater courage to RB than I would to anyone who takes out the garbage. But patience... there I think Richard probably earned the Job award ;-)

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  14. Good morning, Mr Lossner:

    I'd like to first assure you that I am not threatening you at all. Nor am I a troglodyte or any other species of miscreant.

    As would anyone, I do naturally and fairly object to being falsely accused and made to appear to be something I am not or portrayed to be fool by someone who has absolutely no acquaintance with me as a real person. And to represent false facts the generally gullible Internet public is a crime.

    Mr Benham did and said some truly unfair and horrible things about me, personally and professionally, and to and about others. He did this without even the slightest concern for feelings, outcomes, truth, fairness, justice.

    Now, I don't really care what people post--as long as it's as close to 100% true as possible and it's done in a charitable way, and not obviously with the intent to hurt. And, I believe one should focus and not use a scatter bomb technique. If you have a beef with an individual, take it up privately with the individual and leave innocent bystanders out of the fray. Benham did not do that.

    I do find it uncanny that presumably intelligent persons -- even after having read some of the uncivil, even obscene material Benham posted -- can possibly not see thru the hatred and irrationality of his behavior! Some of you actually take it for granted that it is true and I find that saddening. But it was not wit! It was criminal by any standard.

    Benham never had the courtesy to have written to me or to have spoken with me personally. He simply published.

    No one seems to give consideration to the fact that I published much that debunked all of Benham's claims--most of which if not wholly lies were half-truths that served his theses--, that I obtained evidence showing that Benham was in fact the fraud, and I went to extraordinary lengths to obtain from the very sources cited by Benham documentary evidence of the falsity of Benham's statements. I provided all of this to Benham but Benham ignored it and gloated.

    Whereas it is apparently true that Benham was not stupid and apparently very intelligent, he was not a good person. Nor was he in any way moral, ethical, or professional when one takes into serious consideration his blogs. I do also realize that I have posted items in response--note 'in response'--and who wouldn't finally come to one's own defense given the nature and content of Benham's hate blogs.

    I'm sorry, but I refuse to beatify a person who portrayed himself to be a vicious and vile troll and one who was clearly sick in many ways. Rather than join in the pablum-puking, I tell it like it is, and as anyone can fairly glean from even a superficial reading of any of Benham's myriad hate blogs: Benham was a malicious bastard.



    I have no fight with you, Mr Lossner; all I asked of you is not to become embroiled in Benham's hate legacy and not to promote it by continuing to propagate interest and access to Benham's least complimentary activity during life. In fact, if you are truly objective, you may even realize that by linking to his blogs, you are casting a shadow--one that I feel he justly deserves-- over the man you are attempting to eulogize.

    Eulogize anyone you like but if you must make accusations or lend support to accusations, please have the good sense to do so on personal experience and good hard evidence and not on half-truth, speculation, hearsay.

    Thank you.

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  15. Mr Lossner:

    Thank you very much for posting my reply.

    For what it's worth, I was not banned from ProZ; Like so many others I refused to pay to be abused and opted not to renew my paid subscription. When I opted not to renew, I explained to ProZ the reasons why I was not renewing. I am still on ProZ but as a non-subscriber, I have merely the most limited access. Otherwise, apart from one or two heavy-handed moderators, I had not really adverse experiences on ProZ.

    I do, however, prefer the style and format of TranslatorsCafe.

    Peace,

    Harold

    P.s. I have posted a comment on your reaction to my commuications to you; at the time my assessments appeared fair but I shall have no problem deleting those comments on the assumption that I have made my point about Benham's blogs.

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  16. http://www.proz.com/blueboard/857
    Albany TransComm International (Harold Vadney)
    Primary profile xxxVadney

    Note from site staff
    August 27, 2009, 2:00 pm
    This outsourcer has been banned from posting jobs at ProZ.com

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  17. Hello, Michele:

    Well, I didn't think I had any adverse experiences ;)

    My point was I am still listed on ProZ (why I don't know)...I haven't been logged on there for perhaps 2 years (if so only to check I'm still there). I still receive job notices but because I don't pay to view them, it's useless to me.

    Anyway, thanks for the information for what it's worth.

    P.s. Is "banned" your language or is that the language used by ProZ?

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  18. Yes, Kevin, there are plenty of examples in the history. For instance, who remembers who the young man was who placed himself before the tanks at Tianmen, Beijing in the morning of June 4, 1989? Nobody remember his name, his story and his where-about since then? Life just goes on unfolding and nobody cares about what happens to others, so long as it doesn´t concern oneself. If it were not Trotski, we wouldn´t remember that he was murdered in Mexiko.

    When I was old enough, my mother told me, "Everything you can solve business-like is never a problem. When you encounter a problem which you cannot solve business-like, it is personal. When things become personal, they are real problems."

    What happens among translators is very often personal. There is a young German living in China who complains recently in a forum that he cannot find a job because the agencies regard him "over-qualified." People start attacking him on this statement. People check his profile and find out that he maintains to be CEO of two Chinese companies. People say, if you are CEO of two Chinese companies, why should you look for translation jobs? There we are, personal comments. That young man might have lied about his qualification and he shall learn from this. However, I wouldn´t be so unnice to tell him that he is a liar. I would tell him to stay low and to start with small jobs to prove what he can do in this walk of living. After all, the end clients know better to judge whether a translator is qualified for their jobs or not. In order to draw clients´ attention, one doesn´t need to push up one´s profile. Guter Leumund kommt niemals von Prahlen.

    It is sometimes very interesting to observe how translator colleagues try to put each other into bad lights. Good translators get mobbed pretty often, but they sustain and survive. There is not only one "market," but many different ones. Good translators find their places. "The translation workplace" may be a workplace for some translators (or outsourcers), but it isn´t the only place where translators find works. There are many ways to find works. We don´t need to help creating an illusion of a "translation workplace" while we are actually manipulated against each other and thus easily exploited. The more we believe in a "translation workplace," the easier we get manipulated and exploited, especially when information is screened and we are not allowed to express our doubts or opinions. When things get personal, we can never see the truth.

    Both Mr. Vadney and Mr. Benham were not especially welcome by the management of "the translation workplace," but they do their businesses each in their own ways. False qualifications? Scrutinize the profiles at that workplace and you find a lot of incredible good qualifications. Well supported housewives with fantastic qualifications still waiting for good jobs dropped from heaven upon them.

    For me, good translators exchange minds with colleagues and learn from each other. They know that clients are somewhere else, not among colleagues, with whom they might collaborate from time to time, not as one´s clients, but as colleauges. As a successful German colleague says, "There are clients with low-quality needs, clients with top-quality needs, and the gamut in between. There are translators to accommodate all those markets. Over time, the choice is ours." I really don´t see a sense in the color game of any translation workplaces.

    I would suggest, let´s bury the personal issues between Mr. Vadney and Mr. Benham. It doesn´t matter what qualifications Mr. Vadney has acquired. The clients who believe in him would keep on working with him. Let him go in peace. Being "banned" or "restricted" by "the translation workplace" is not a shame at all. Martin Luther was excommunicated, too. Since then, there have been variants of Christian belief emerging after a long period of battles. Translation, our walk of living, is pretty much like that. Do we need a church for translation?

    - Sylvia

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  19. HV wrote:

    "I am still on ProZ but as a non-subscriber, I have merely the most limited access."

    Seems to me that 'access' doesn't get more limited than as stated by Proz on their site.

    Perhaps someone is exercising ecomomy with the truth here? Surprise, surprise...

    That said, I see this thread as a tribute to RB.

    And sorry Sylvia, now that they have arisen, I see no need to 'bury the personal issues', particularly as they seem to have attracted the
    attention of the dung beetle in person.

    That's not what RB would have wanted.

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  20. @Chris:

    Hi Chris,

    Don't feel sorry for anything, because you've just uttered your honest opinion about a person I don't know at all. No problem with me. I can read the nuance in the most limited access, though it doesn't mean much to me. However, it is not about that person here. I believe, too, that Richard wouldn't like it, either.

    I wish you a nice weekend!

    - Sylvia

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  21. Scottie the SockpuppetOctober 24, 2009 7:12 PM

    Don't feed the troll!

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  22. To quote Mr. Vadney:
    "I'd like to first assure you that I am not threatening you at all. Nor am I a troglodyte or any other species of miscreant."
    ...
    "Now, I don't really care what people post--as long as it's as close to 100% true as possible and it's done in a charitable way, and not obviously with the intent to hurt."

    This is Mr. Vadney's blog, wickedly and maliciously attacking Richard in his grave:
    http://haroldwvadney.blogspot.com/

    Charming isn't it? At least it does provide one possible answer to the question "how low can a person go.......".

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